Authors: Andrea Domanski
The helicopter flight back to Supai Village was short.
Bill’s body was wrapped in plastic sheeting and secured at the rear, while the
breathing passengers put as much space between them and the corpse as was
“So, where were you guys, anyway?” Carter asked Myrine.
“Sorry about that,” Myrine replied. “General Persaud sent
Captain Hancock to pick us up on his way back to base. The planned pit stop to
refuel there took longer than we expected. I tried to call you, but the
hangar’s underground like the rest of the facility and the sat phones were out
The captain interrupted. “The delay was my fault. There was
a small hydraulic leak I needed to repair and, well, it became a bigger job
than I thought.”
“And that non-disclosure agreement they made us all sign
just for being there wasn’t a treat either.” Myrick grumbled.
Carter nodded, then resumed staring out the window. He was
still having trouble wrapping his head around everything that had just
transpired. His childhood friend, someone he’d once trusted with his life, had
become a murderer. He’d turned against the people closest to him, and Carter would
never have the opportunity to ask him why. If only Hancock hadn’t killed him.
But he had, to save Carter and Kell’s lives. Now they’d never know Bill’s
reasoning, never know what he’d done with the other people he’d kidnapped, and
never know what he meant earlier when he intimated that he’d done far worse to
Carter than just out his relationship with Gina to the tribe.
When they touched down, Bidzil was waiting for them. His
look of worry when the wrapped body was carried out of the chopper was replaced
by relief when the chief and Carter exited.
Carter told Myrine he would meet them back at the hotel in
the morning. For the first time in far too long, he actually wanted to stay in
the village. With a quick salute, Captain Hancock lifted off with Ranger
Christner and the rest of the Omega Group team to conclude his taxi service for
“Is that William?” Bidzil looked at the corpse and then back
to the chief.
“Yes. Carter was right about him. If I’m not mistaken,
Bidzil, you were, too.” The chief raised his eyebrows, waiting for the healer
“I did have my suspicions, but not for something like this.
I am as surprised at the depth of his hatred as I’m sure you are.” He turned to
Carter. “And you, my friend, have visitors. They are waiting in the council
office.” His smile was both warm and a little mischievous.
The door to the office was ajar, and Carter heard two voices
coming from inside as he approached. His heart sped when he recognized one of
them. Gina. As he pushed through the entrance, she turned to him with an
uncertain look in her eyes. “Is something wrong?” he asked.
“No. I just… We wanted to make sure that Bill was
apprehended. Is it over?”
“Yeah. It’s over.” Carter looked to Gina’s companion—a tall
man about the same age as him—and waited for her to make the introductions.
When she didn’t, Carter offered his hand and said, “I’m Carter Mockta. It’s
nice to meet you.”
The man’s brow furrowed in confusion as he tentatively shook
Carter’s hand. He looked to Gina, who also seemed confused. “You’re Carter? But
“He doesn’t look
different, John,” Gina said.
John put his hands to his temples and shook his head. “Gina,
I’m so sorry. I can’t explain it, but I’ve never met this man before.”
Gina’s jaw dropped. “But you… He… How could that be?”
Carter watched their exchange, trying to make sense of it.
“What am I missing here?”
Gina didn’t answer. Her white-knuckled hold on the table
behind her seemed to be the only thing keeping her from collapsing to the
floor. The faraway look in her eyes was unreadable.
“Five years ago, Gina sent me to your village to deliver a
message,” John said.
Carter put his hand up to stop him talking. A powerful anger
engulfed him in an instant. “Yeah, I know all about that. You told my best
friend about my relationship with Gina and I was thrown out of my tribe like a
piece of garbage.” He glared at Gina. “It wasn’t enough for you to just ditch
me, you had to destroy my life, too?” Carter’s hands fisted at his sides as all
of the rage he’d kept buried deep inside since that night came spilling out.
John grabbed him by the shoulders and shoved him away from
Gina. “She’s been through enough, you selfish bastard.”
been through enough? Really? I lost everything
I ever loved that night, all because of her.”
John stepped forward but was stopped by Gina’s hand on his
shoulder. “He doesn’t know, John,” she whispered as a tear fell down her cheek.
The look on John’s face would have been comical under
different circumstances. His eyes widened as his mouth opened and closed. “You
really don’t know? Oh God, what did I do?” John paced back and forth.
Gina stood straight. “John, it’s okay. There was no way you
could have known. But right now, I need a few minutes alone with Carter. Would
you mind waiting outside?”
John gave Gina a long, hard hug before walking away. He
paused by the exit and looked over his shoulder at Carter. “I can’t tell you
how sorry I am for my part in this.”
A moment later, they were alone, sitting on the worn leather
“That night,” Gina began, “I wanted nothing more than to run
away with you. I had such hopes for our future.” Tears streamed down her face
as she spoke.
“Then why didn’t you?”
Gina swallowed, then lowered her gaze to the floor. “There’s
something you don’t know, Carter. A few weeks earlier, I found out that I was
pregnant. I was so scared of how you’d react that I didn’t tell you. When you
asked me to run away with you, though, I knew that you’d want the baby as much
as I did. I’d planned on telling you as soon as we met on the hilltop.”
Carter was dumbstruck. The room around him spun as his
breath quickened. The knot that formed in his gut threatened to explode as the
implications of Gina’s story sank in. “We have a child?” he asked with a
Gina’s tears fell even more quickly as she answered. “No. I
lost the baby that night. That’s why I didn’t show up. I sent John to tell you
what was happening, but…” Her voice trailed off.
“But he mistook Bill for me.”
“I guess so.”
They both sat in silence for what seemed an eternity.
Carter’s thoughts raced through everything he’d thought he knew about that
night, until they settled on one horrible truth. “All this time, you thought I
knew. You thought I’d abandoned you when you needed me most.”
“And you thought I’d betrayed you.”
“I’m so sorry, Gina.” Carter cupped her cheek in his hand
and wiped away her tears with his thumb. The intimacy of the touch sent
familiar shivers down his spine and, without thinking, he leaned in and gently
kissed her trembling lips. When she threaded her fingers through his long hair,
he knew he’d once again found his soul mate.
When their lips parted, Gina looked at him the way she’d
always done when they were younger. Like she knew everything about him and
accepted—and loved—him anyway. “There’s something else I need to tell you,
Carter. You have a right to know, but I’m afraid of how you might react.”
Although he couldn’t imagine anything she could tell him
that would elicit a stronger reaction than what she’d already said, he nodded
his head and held fast to her hand. “What is it?”
“The miscarriage that night wasn’t a natural occurrence. Our
healer knew I was pregnant, and he did something to cause me to lose it. Some
sort of herbal potion he slipped me at dinner.”
Again, Carter was dumbstruck. When he saw Gina wince, he
realized his grip on her hand had turned painfully tight, and he released it.
“Why would he do that? Just because I was Havasupai?”
“Because you’re a wolf. He’s been obsessed with getting the
shifting ability for as long as I can remember. He thought our baby, with its
mixed blood, would be everything he needed.”
“So, why kill it? The baby could have grown up to be a
shape-shifter and passed the ability down to his children.” Although he knew it
was strange to be talking about his child and possible grandchildren as though
they were real, it felt natural.
“Dyami is old school, Carter. He still believes that
sacrifices need to be made in order to receive blessings from the gods. He knew
that the tribe wouldn’t allow him to kill a baby, but a fetus could be
sacrificed without anyone knowing, and he could keep the… remains for whatever
ceremony he’d planned.”
Even for an outsider, the story would have been gruesome,
but knowing it was his child who was murdered made the bile rise in Carter’s
throat. “You knew, though?”
“Not until years later. I found the recipe for the herbal
concoction in one of his notebooks and confronted him about it.”
“That’s why he apologized to you back in the hotel conference
room.” It wasn’t a question. The pieces of the puzzle were falling into place
faster than he could register them. That’s the betrayal Bill was talking about
at the falls. He’d known what was happening five years ago and, instead of
telling Carter, had twisted it and used it against him. He’d been planning on
taking Carter’s place even back then.
Determination flooded him. “I need to go see Dyami. He can’t
be allowed to get away with this.”
“No, Carter. He’s begged for my forgiveness more times than I
can count. He really does see the error of his ways. If you go to him, guns
blazing, the tentative truce we’ve finally built after a thousand years of
fighting will fall apart. I can’t let that happen. Not now.”
Carter held Gina’s gaze, marveling at her strength and
integrity, before asking in a soft voice, “Why did you stay with them after you
found out what Dyami had done to you?”
“Where would I have gone? They were the only family I had
Gina’s mother had died when she was a little girl, and her father
died when she was a teenager. She had no siblings. Carter’s heart sank as the
reality of her situation struck him. Even when they’d been together, she often
talked about how lonely her life was when they were apart. He could only
imagine how much worse it must have been after she lost both him and their
baby. His eyes welled up at the thought of her pain, and she reached out and
laid a hand on his cheek.
okay, Carter. It was a long
time ago. I’ve made peace with it… mostly.” She gave him a weak smile.
“Stay with me tonight?” he asked. Her smile pushed aside his
anger and need for revenge, leaving only warmth and… love.
“I thought you’d never ask.”
Carter tried to rub the feeling back into his fingers as he
walked through the lobby at the El Tovar. Gina’s grip on his hand, at first a
welcome sensation, became tighter and tighter as they approached the hotel. She
was unnecessarily nervous, and Carter thought it adorable.
The lush décor of the hallway was in stark contrast to the
furnishings at the Supai lodge they’d stayed in the night before, but Carter
wouldn’t have changed a thing. For the first time in his life, everything was
exactly as he wanted it. Gina was at his side and, hopefully, would stay there.
His father finally accepted his relationship with her and even asked him to
move home. Of course that was something Carter didn’t want. He loved the life
he had in Jacksonville and now that Gina would be with him, there was no reason
to leave. But he did relish being given the offer.
After a warm goodbye to his father, he and Gina made the
hike to the hilltop, just like they’d planned to do all those years ago. It was
a fitting start to their new life together. Bidzil, claiming he needed the
exercise, joined them for a short while before turning around and heading back.
His parting words of wisdom about their five-year-long misunderstanding were
“Many of the truths we cling to depend on our point of view.” Carter thought it
more of his usual sage advice, until the healer erupted with laughter.
“That one is from Yoda and is for your friend, Han,” Bidzil
Once they reached Steve and Myrine’s suite, Carter paused to
take in the sight of his very fidgety Gina. “It’ll be fine. I promise.” After
she nodded her agreement, he pushed the already-ajar door open and pulled her
inside with him.
“It’s about time, man,” Han said. “We were about to leave
Carter playfully punched his friend in the shoulder and
said, “About that. Do we have room for one more?” Every head in the room turned
and he felt Gina pull even further behind him. Stepping to the side, Carter
announced, “For those of you that don’t know, this is Gina Ankte. She’s with
The initial looks of shock morphed quickly into smiles, then
a few catcalls from Han and Myrick. His teammates were nothing if not
accepting, and Gina visibly relaxed after their reactions.
“Will I be able to get a ticket this late?” she asked.
“No ticket required, lass. We’ve got a brand-spanking-new
private jet on its way to the Grand Canyon as we speak. I, for one, can’t wait
to get my ass back to the ocean.” Myrick was in his usual good spirits, and his
attitude was contagious.
The entire team was laughing and joking around with the
camaraderie Carter had grown to love. He turned to Gina and planted a light
kiss on her cheek. “Told you. I’ll be right back. Make yourself at home.” That
last bit wasn’t needed as Mirissa and Asteria trotted up and pulled her to the
Girly gossip time.
Carter shook his head to rid it of the thought
of all the embarrassing things Gina could reveal about him.
When he reached Han, he noticed his friend looked anxious.
“Waiting for the ranger to come and give you a tearful goodbye, Romeo?”
Han’s eyes narrowed. “Of course not. We already exchanged
contact info so I’m not expecting her.” A knock at the door had Han’s head
swinging; then an ear-to-ear grin spread across his face. “Kell! You came.”
Carter laughed as his friend left him high and dry and
almost ran over Kell in his exuberance. Everyone seemed happy. Everyone, that
is, except Myrine. Although she smiled politely when people spoke to her, she
appeared distracted. He wandered over to where she sat on the sofa beside her
husband. “Everything okay?”
Myrine looked up at him and forced another smile. “Yeah, of
course. It’s just…”
Steve took over where Myrine left off. “She hates loose
ends, and there are a lot of them in this case.”
Carter couldn’t disagree. With Bill dead, they’d probably
never get the answers they wanted, and that gnawed at him, too. Before he had
the chance to reassure her, the sat phone on the table rang and Myrine answered
“Hey, Julian. What’s up?” There was a moment of silence as
Julian apparently spoke, then Myrine said, “Hang on a second. Let me put you on
Calling the team over, she laid down the phone. “Go ahead.”
Julian’s excited voice blared through the small speakers,
giving it an even more tinny quality. “I’ve been going through all the
electronics recovered from the jet you had shipped to me and I finally figured
out why I wasn’t able to get past the hack.” He paused as though waiting for
someone to ask the question, but continued when no one did. “It wasn’t a hack!”
More silence filled the room as eyebrows raised in confused
looks. Myrine took the lead. “Okay, Julian. What does that mean?”
“It means”—he sounded exasperated at their lack of
knowledge—“that I didn’t fail. I couldn’t un-hack the hack because it never
existed in the first place.”
“Then, how did he take control of our jet?” Steve asked.
“There was an override hardwired into the auto-pilot system.
It was set up to piggyback on the jet’s communication signal. All he had to do
was wait for you to get close enough, turn on his override, and he had total
control. It was genius!” There was a moment of quiet on the phone, then, “Not
that it wasn’t also dastardly.”
“What kind of technical knowledge would be required to pull
something like that off?” Carter asked.
“Not a lot, really. He could have pieced the override
together from other components with only a college-level understanding of
electronics. Same goes for hardwiring it to the auto-pilot.”
“So, anyone could acquire the know-how pretty easily, then,”
“Hell, yes. I could do it in my sleep. Now, flying the plane
is another thing entirely.”
When Julian failed to continue, Carter prodded him along.
“Can you explain that?”
“What’s to explain? Flying a plane is hard. It requires
specialized skills. Once he had control, he had to actually fly it remotely.”
Once again, all heads in the room turned to Carter. He
answered their unasked question flatly. “No. Bill didn’t have the skills to fly
the jet. I doubt he had the skills to make the override, either. That might be
easy for Julian, but not for the rest of humanity. Certainly not for Bill.”
Mirissa walked forward. “So, we got the wrong guy?”
“I don’t think so,” Myrine said. “We know Bill kidnapped
Carter and tried to kill his father. There’s no question about that. What we
didn’t consider was that those things might be completely unrelated to our
“So it’s just a coincidence, then?” asked Mirissa.
“Not a coincidence,” Carter said. “I caused it by coming
here. Bill felt threatened so he escalated into a killer. It probably would
have happened at some point, but my presence sped the process along. If another
agent had come to investigate, there probably wouldn’t have been two sets of
Gina grabbed his hand. “None of this is your fault, Carter.
We’re lucky you were here, even if it did push Bill to act faster. Had he gone
off the deep end at another time, without you here, your father would be dead.”
Carter squeezed her hand, gave her a quick smile, and then
addressed the group. “There’s only one person who had the kind of access to the
jet required to plant the override device. I needed the fuselage repaired after
the gunfight when we landed. General Persaud sent his guys to do it.”
A long silence followed until Myrick chimed in. “I’m not
going back to the ocean now, am I?”